(former name: Katsuko Hara)
On October 18, 1938, Toshiko was born in Kako Town, Hiroshima City (today’s Nakajima Town, Naka Ward, about 1 km from the hypocenter). Her family members included her father, mother, two younger sisters — one, two years younger; the other, six years younger — and a brother born after World War II.
Her parents ran an inn for soldiers. These visitors helped take good care of her, and she grew up in good health.
After completing Mutoku Kindergarten in March 1945, Toshiko was evacuated to a relative’s house and enrolled at Yoshida Elementary School in the Takata district. Her parents, however, were worried about their little girl and brought her back home in May, then enrolled her in Nakajima Elementary School. In the summer of 1945, the Japanese military ordered her family to move out of the area. One week before the atomic bombing, they moved to Ushita, Minami Ward (today’s Ushita, Higashi Ward, about 2.3 km from the hypocenter), and she transferred to Ushita Elementary School.
On the morning on August 6, 1945, as six-year-old Toshiko was waiting for her friend under a cherry tree to go to school together, the atomic bomb exploded in the sky above the city. Though burned by the blast, she managed to make it home. That night, she had a high fever and lost conciousness. Later, at the age of 12, she was told by a doctor that her white blood cell count was abnormal.
She also developed canker sores, one after another. Her throat became swollen, and she could barely swallow any food. She suffered from extreme fatigue and feared that she would die.
In her second year at Noboricho Junior High School, her teacher urged her to run for student council president, but she had little time outside of helping her mother with work mending clothes and delivering these clothes to customers on her father’s bicycle. Despite her busy days, she wanted a way to express herself, so she became the president of the school’s newspaper club. She then devoted herself to the club’s activities. After graduating from junior high, she decided to pursue illustration and design, things she had been interested in since she was little. She took evening classes at Kokutaiji High School for four years, while also working, and saved money to go to Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo to study design and become a designer.
After earning her college degree, she returned to Hiroshima. In 1964, at the age of 25, she got married and had two children. At the suggestion of her mother-in-law, she changed her name from Katsuko to Toshiko and started taking enameling lessons. Enameling wasn’t something she had considered doing until then.
She studied under the enamelist Keiichi Saito for six years and immersed herself in the world of enameling. Her works began to gain recognition from the Japan Fine Arts Exhibition and the Japan Contemporary Arts and Crafts Exhibition, and she became a regular member of each. Keeping her ambitions high, she also studied at Tokyo University of the Arts and at an art school in New York for a short time.
In 1981, one of her pieces was presented to Pope John Paul II by the mayor of the City of Hiroshima.
During the period from 2007 to 2017, she traveled around the world on Peace Boat four times, sharing her experiences of the atomic bombing.
In 2016, she remodeled part of her house and established the “Peace Exchange Space.”
Now a freelance artist, the theme of her enamel works is “the connection between human beings and nature in the universe.” As an A-bomb survivor, she has been dedicated to relating her account of the atomic bombing. She has been involved in the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), Hibakusha Stories (a New York-based NPO working to pass on the legacy of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the next generation), and the Japan Confederation of A- and H-bomb Sufferers Organizations (Nihon Hidankyo).